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The easy way out

Sunday, September 18, 2011 - 00:00

I had what can only be described as one of the most uncomfortable experiences I’ve ever had just the other day — uncomfortable, but unfortunately, not altogether that unusual. It is something I fear is indicative of a far more dangerous problem than anyone is willing to address or even admit.

It started with a more or less normal visit from one of our outside salesman accompanied by a manufacturer’s rep. It was normal in the sense that they appeared unannounced and without an appointment. I looked up and there they were; ready to talk about a new line this particular vendor had taken on.

It was an important call. We need to know what’s available and when; how deep the inventory will be, especially at first; and, how the line will be priced. They had my attention because the new line is from an old brand with a rich history of quality and innovation. It is a brand I have purchased before and was actually looking forward to purchasing again, pending more information, of course. And, that’s when things moved one step closer to the bizarre.

Before I could even broach the subject of country of origin, quality, acquisition cost, depth of coverage, fill rate, availability or even warranty, the manufacturer’s rep immediately moved the conversation to a discussion of the company’s second line: their “price line.”

I listened for a bit, not because I was interested. I listened because I was fascinated — fascinated the discussion could take such a strange and dangerous turn so quickly, fascinated that it could move in that direction without any resistance to a meaningful discussion of what accepting the quality line would mean.

After a minute or two I just couldn’t listen any longer. I wasn’t interested in the price line. I never have been. I’m interested in quality parts from quality companies that have enough pride in what they build to guarantee their products with the same confidence and enthusiasm they want me to convey across the service counter to my clients and customers. So, I challenged him to sell me on the good stuff — to tell me why I should choose his brand before and above another rather than drop the discussion to the lowest common denominator: price. And, believe it or not, he did, and, he did it quite well. But, not before he let me know that more than 80 percent of his calls end up in that dark and scary basement with nothing else to talk about but price, so that was just naturally where he felt the conversation should start.

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